Food trucks get green light

Council permits mobile vendors to open for business in parts of downtown

The city's 57-year-old food truck ordinance got a revamp Tuesday night, ending an unwritten agreement that had been keeping food trucks off Castro Street.

The new wave of food trucks seen around the Valley may soon return to parts of the city's downtown, where food truck operators had been effectively shooed away by the city. City Attorney Jannie Quinn said in January that mobile food vendors had a "gentle-person's agreement" to not park downtown while the city considered a new ordinance. Downtown restaurants had also complained.

"It is interesting that nobody was here tonight from the food truck industry saying 'This is a bad thing,'" noted council member Mike Kasperzak. "Like so many people they want certainty. Having a framework helps them know what they can do and what they can't do."

Mobile food vendors will still be excluded from Castro Street between Evelyn Avenue and California Street and from Dana and Villa streets between Hope and Bryant streets. That leaves open several parking lots where council members previously expressed interest in seeing food trucks allowed, including the St. Joseph's church lot at Church and Castro streets and the Caltrain lots on the north side of Evelyn Avenue. Food trucks could still park downtown for special events.

In the 5-2 vote, council members decided not to allow the food trucks to be in operation until midnight, going with the 10 p.m. curfew recommended by city staff, but they agreed to revisit the restriction in a year.

"The local news doesn't come on until 11 p.m., council meetings don't end until 11 p.m., I don't see why we're cutting people off at 10 p.m.," said council member Chris Clark.

"When I was pregnant many times I went looking for something to eat (late at night), and all there was, was fast food," said council member Margaret Abe-Koga, who also questioned the earlier time.

City staff members said the recommendation to keep food trucks out of most of downtown was due to "public safety concerns" -- previously saying that food trucks would encourage jaywalking and standing in the street. There was also opposition to food trucks from downtown businesses. A letter from the Central Business Association said food trucks have the unfair advantage in not having to pay numerous fees required of restaurants and other businesses.

Council members John McAlister and Mayor John Inks opposed the ordinance for different reasons. Inks said it was unnecessary to regulate food trucks and questioned whether the public safety concerns were real, while McAlister said they were a threat to "brick-and-mortar" businesses, which have complained about them.

"This council seems to want to make it easier for the food vendors to come along and harder for brick-and-mortar people," said McAlister, who owns an ice cream shop.

Food truck owners will still have to pay a fee of over $600 a year to operate in the city.

The council also learned that food trucks owners are required by the county to provide a bathroom for employees when parked for more than an hour. It could be an agreement to use a privately owned bathroom nearby, but it has to be within 200 feet.

The new ordinance also specifies that food trucks stay 100 feet away from schools and may not park adjacent to single family homes, unless a block party permit allows for it. Food trucks may also not park for more than four hours in a private lot without a special event permit, or take up more than 25 percent of a parking lot or 10 parking spaces, whichever is greater, without a special event permit.

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3 people like this
Posted by Mark
a resident of Shoreline West
on May 30, 2013 at 11:51 am

Shouldn't council member "... McAlister, who owns an ice cream shop ..." have reclused himself from voting based on a conflict of interest???!!! Jeez ... is this present-day Mountain View or Chicago under Mayor Daly in 1968??? And THIS is just pure B.S. = "food trucks would encourage jaywalking and standing in the street". I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that THIS SPECIFIC WORDING came pretty much from the mouth of a downtown restaurant owner. Downtown restaurants HAVE SET UP TABLES THAT ARE ONLY 6 FEET FROM CARS WHIZZING BY AT 25 MPH! Where is the safety concern for pedestrians and diners in THAT situation? THEIR dining tables are SITTING ON THE STREET! Thank goodness that without this horrible scourge of foot trucks and the danger that they would present, there is absolutely NEVER any jaywalking or standing in the street in downtown Mountain View, although SITTING AT A TABLE IN THE STREET IS OKAY AS LONG AS A RESTAURANT IS MAKING MONEY ON IT) ... HAHAHA! THIS is about as TRANSPARENT of a greed-based argument BY restaurant owners and AGAINST food trucks as could be made! Food trucks provide competition to the downtown restaurants and PROVIDE GREAT FOOD OPTIONS TO DINERS which the restaurants just don't like but that BENEFITS LOCAL RESIDENTS AND HUNGRY VISITORS as a whole instead of just benefitting the relatively few restaurant owners and food workers. Food truck vs. brick-and-mortar arguments posed in this article are specious -- THE TRUTH IS that the restaurant owners wouldn't like it even if the trucks were new brick-and-mortar business opening because it would STILL provide competition.

3 people like this
Posted by Angela Hey
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2013 at 2:33 pm

It would be really useful if the town could publish a list of food trucks authorized to do business in the city and the hours they are allowed to operate (if there are restrictions), as well as the hours the food truck owners actually like to open their trucks. Then maybe the Voice could republish the list. This would be really helpful for people who organize events in the city and want to have a food truck at their event. Are extra permits required for events like Meetups that want a food truck outside their meeting premises?

3 people like this
Posted by nikonbob
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 30, 2013 at 2:38 pm

I don't see any legitimate reason NOT to allow the trucks. They're popular because people like the variety and unique styles of food they offer. It's all about giving the people what they want.

Brick and mortars stick with the traditional "safe" offerings that will appeal to a broader audience. If they feel threatened by the trucks, get a little more imaginative with your menus, create some of the 'buzz' the trucks do by getting on social media, and the trucks won't be such a threat.

3 people like this
Posted by mandycooper
a resident of Gemello
on May 30, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I respect food truck owners trying to live a decent life,etc...But the thing everyone needs to understand is they don't pay sales taxes, social security taxes, benefits to employees,etc.. and other expenses that that real restaurants have to pay and that is not fair competition. Food truck owners are simply walking away with cold cash. i personally don't think food trucks are hygienic and the food quality is not restaurant quality and I stay away from them. But people who frequent food trucks need to understand one fact. You are contributing to the demise of established restaurants who spend time and money to make your dining experience a pleasant one. So be ethical. Have you seen the taco stands on california ave, people spit stuff right where they eat,etc...

3 people like this
Posted by REx
a resident of Rex Manor
on May 30, 2013 at 3:26 pm

Could someone please tell my why food truck owners have to pay a $600 fee to the City? What is that fee for?

3 people like this
Posted by @Rex
a resident of The Crossings
on May 30, 2013 at 4:09 pm

There are lots of fees: a business license, health department inspection fees, etc.

3 people like this
Posted by C
a resident of another community
on May 30, 2013 at 4:49 pm

they do not have to pay that $600.00 fee anymore. now its just 119$ permit.

3 people like this
Posted by Political Insider
a resident of Old Mountain View
on May 31, 2013 at 8:11 am

"It is interesting that nobody was here tonight from the food truck industry saying 'This is a bad thing,'" noted council member Mike Kasperzak. "Like so many people they want certainty. Having a framework helps them know what they can do and what they can't do."

Spoken like a true bureaucrat. No one shows up so I will do whatever I like.

3 people like this
Posted by Rodger
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Jun 1, 2013 at 11:29 am

I would not eat food from one of these trucks, maybe buy a bottled drink or something else in a sealed container. I don't trust the sanitary conditions on these trucks. When does city do health inspections on trucks, my guess is never so you are on your own.

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